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Filtering by Tag: honey

Hold the Sugar, Honey.

Tara Chapman

Got a sweet tooth? Pull up a seat and kick up your feet, cause you’re in good company. Last night, after my groceries were delivered, I laid out a big plate of vegetables in the hopes that I’d choose health over cream popsicles. (Yes. I said “delivered”. Lazy and sweet tooth are two unfortunate conditions that tend to go hand in hand.) I doubt I need to tell you the outcome.

Even so, I cut out most sugar from diet several years ago. (Except for dark chocolate and ice cream. I am still human, for god’s sake.) Which means most processed foods had to go. Most folks don’t realize it, but most store-bought foods, from bacon to spaghetti sauce, contain mounds of sugar. But I still get plenty of sweet, thanks to my honeybees and their delicious honey. I stir it into my greek yogurt and overnight oatmeal, drizzle it atop bananas and peanut butter, and melt it into my hot drinks.

Although honey is still a sweetener, and should be consumed in moderation (eye roll), it does contain antioxidants and healthy enzymes that you won’t find in sugar. Keep in mind that even sugar labeled as “raw sugar” still starts as cane juice that has been stripped from the cane and boiled, along with any vitamins and minerals found in the sugar cane. The difference between raw sugar and more processed forms of the sweet stuff is simply the number of times the juice has been boiled. Raw honey, on the other hand, undergoes no processing at all. I’d argue it’s one of the few ‘whole food’ sweeteners. If you have to have a little sweet in your life, honey is definitely the smarter choice.

While it’s easy to substitute honey as a sweeter in your beverages, have you thought about making the move to using honey over sugar in your baked goods? If you need any more reasons to choose honey over sugar, consider the following:

  1. Honey has a higher percentage of fructose, and is therefore significantly sweeter than sugar. Less honey is required to achieve the same desired sweetness.
  2. Honey attracts and retains water (which is why it’s also so good for wound care) and makes baked goods more moist for longer than those baked with sugar.
  3. Baked goods made with honey tend to brown nicely, which can mean a beautiful golden color for your goods.
  4. The flavor profile of honey can vary greatly depending on the flowers the bees visited to make the honey. A honey lighter in color tends to have a milder flavor and not as sweet, while a darker honey tends to have a more robust sweetness and a bolder flavor. Imagine the possibilities when combined with your favorite recipes!

However, because honey is sweeter and in liquid form, a straight 1:1 substitution isn’t advised, unless you are substituting less than a cup of sugar. Following are a few recommended guidelines in how to substitute honey for sugar in recipes. Keep in mind that some experimentation may be required, and you can always start small by simply substituting half of the sugar in your favorite recipe.

  1. Spray your measuring cup or moisten with water to allow honey to slide out easily.
  2. Because honey is both sweeter and heavier than sugar, less honey is needed to obtain the same sweet result. Generally 1/2–3/4 cup of honey should be used in place of each cup of sugar. Start with less, and add more as necessary. (Note that most experts agree that up to 1 cup of sugar can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio.)

 

3. Because honey is a liquid, the liquids in the recipe need to be adjusted accordingly. For every 1 cup of honey used, 1/4 cup of liquid should be subtracted from the recipe. Hate math? Me too. Use the handy chart on the left to help guide you.

4. Honey causes baked goods to brown quicker than those baked with sugar, so reduce you oven temp by 25 degree F and don’t veer too far from watching over the oven!

5. Because honey is a bit acidic, you should add add 1/2 tsp baking soda per each cup of honey to ensure the batter will rise.

Though it takes a bit of thought to substitute honey for sugar in your baked goods, I promise the end result is worth it!

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Is Your Honey Organic?

Tara Chapman

Pop quiz: how many of the following statements apply to you?

You buy organic produce. You seek out free-trade, non-GMO products whenever possible. You don’t mind paying a few extra dollars for free-range beef or cage-free eggs. You make an effort to shop local.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, why do you make these choices? Probably because you care deeply about what goes into your and your family’s bodies. You most likely want to ensure the people responsible for growing, picking, and preparing your food are paid and treated fairly. You almost certainly prioritize the humane treatment of animals before they become your supper.

Is your honey organic? Does it matter?

Is your honey organic? Does it matter?

One more question: is your choice of honey organic? You may be shocked to learn that this is one time that “organic” perhaps shouldn’t be at the top of your checklist.

First, a little honey bomb of knowledge: the USDA does not currently have any officially approved USDA organic honey standards. (A draft of a recommended standard was presented by the National Organic Standards Board in October of 2010, but it has not been adopted by the USDA.) But, you say, “I’ve seen the ‘USDA organic’ green sticker on jars in the store!”

Chances are high that the USDA organic honey you see is not even produced in this country. How does that work? Well, the USDA allows its label to be used on products that meet the organic standards of the country of origin. Next time you see the USDA green sticker, I challenge you to flip that jar around. Chances are high that the honey was either produced in Mexico, Canada, or Brazil. (I recently performed a small unscientific test at my local Whole Foods. All three honeys labeled as USDA organic on the shelf were produced outside of the United States — including the Whole Foods brand.) So much for buying local. Further, even if the honey is produced in this country, the labeling and adulteration of honey is infamously egregious. Adulteration refers to the mixing of honey with another inferior and inexpensive product. Who’s excited about a bit of high fructose corn syrup with their honey?!

Country of origin on label of the same USDA organic honey pictured above.

Country of origin on label of the same USDA organic honey pictured above.

Without a USDA standard and accompanied enforcement, I wouldn’t place much merit on that little green sticker.

Finally, it’s important to note that bees aren’t livestock that can be kept in a pen and whose movements we can control. Any organic standard would have to apply to not only the practices kept by the beekeeper in controlling pests and disease, but also what flowers the bees are visiting for feed. Did you know bees will forage up to 3–5 miles in any direction, as necessary, to find food? That means in order for a honey to be indisputably organic, the bees would have to be raised on a plot of 100 square miles of certified organic land. That is equivalent to approximately 48,400 football fields — including end zones!

Here’s the takeaway: organic honey may not be worth the sticker it’s printed on.

But wait! Just because I’ve encouraged you to look past the organic label doesn’t mean there aren’t other standards and criteria I recommend you seek that are much more important than the ‘organic’ name we’ve all grown to love. So what should you look for?

Here’s the short answer: Know your beekeeper. Research, and ask questions if need be. How does he or she prioritize the health of the honeybees over honey production? What practices does he employ to help fight disease and pests? Keep in mind that anything going into the hive has the potential to not only end up on your plate, but also affects the health of the honeybees as well.

The long answer: “Natural” beekeeping is a term that beeks (that’s beekeepers+geeks) have coined to describe practices ensuring the health and well-being of the bees are first and foremost. Those practices include, but are not limited to:

  1. refraining from using any pesticides or other treatments not naturally derived from entering the hives
  2. ensuring apiaries only contain as many bees as can be supported by the nectar and pollen supply
  3. refraining from using paint and other chemicals inside the hive
  4. only providing the bees with supplemental feed if the well-being of the honeybees is dependent upon it, rather than to boost honey production. And if supplemental feeding is required, high fructose corn syrup should never be used. (Unfortunately this is very common in large-scale commercial beekeeping.)

Thankfully there are lots of smaller-scale commercial operations that utilize these practices, and you can be assured these practices, and more, are how we choose to keep our bees here at Two Hives Honey.

Bottom line: Know your beek! I encourage you to visit farmer’s markets to buy honey from your local beekeepers. That allows you to ask informed questions, and support a local business. Double-win!

Want to learn more about the importance of honeybees, their fascinating behavior, and how you can do more to promote their survival? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or sign up for our email list!

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